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John L. Jackson, Jr. Education. (2012) 'Racial Paranoia The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness.'

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  CSPAN    Book TV    John L. Jackson, Jr.  Education.  (2012) 'Racial  
   Paranoia The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness.'  

    January 20, 2013
    1:00 - 1:25pm EST  

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communication. it is about 25 minutes. >> host: john l. jackson is a director of africanus teddies at the university of pennsylvania. he's the author most recently of this book, racial paranoia, the unintended consequences of political correctness. dr. jackson, when you talk about racial paranoia, who is paranoid? >> guest: i would argue we are all paranoid when it comes to race and probably for good reason. one of the points in the book is that raises a category itself is about the embedding of paranoia into the way they look a social life. for instance, the whole point is to say some distances are so paramount, biological, hardwired that we have to be on the lookout at all times and mixing of different ways in which we differentiate between us and
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them. greece itself is about fearing social paranoia. when you think about a country like the united states that's trying to work through its own history of racial antagonist and coming to have two models. one is we're transcending them in moving beyond, trying to build a multiracial community. .. the only reason why i feel like we have to be very careful about serious discussions about things
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we feel uncomfortable about. we've been through all of this stuff. made it to the finish line and now the only way to move forward is to pretend we haven't run this far already. i think to know where we're going to go. to figure out what we want this community to become, we have to understand where we have been and make sense of the differences that still divide us. so, again, it's a fine line between making too much of racial difference, or making a gettish out -- fettish out of it and pushing to a moment where everybody feels like they have a vested interest in american sew size. >> host: whose the role of political correctness in our views on race? >> guest: part of the point -- it's easy to take a pot shot at political correctness. it's trying to place a premium on civility. we don't want to offend people or have folks feel uncomfortable. the potential downside is when that's connected to an a version
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of any discussion of race at all. when you're not talking about race in the social networks aren't racially diverse, you tend to have a very limited sense of what the social other's life is about. you don't have real relationships, and those cannot have people in your life that represent very different ways of being in the world put you in this very precarious position when any racial conflagration flair up. you don't have an investment in folks across the racial line, and to have an investment, you try to fine a way to push through. if you have realizationships, you just write them off. and don't talk to them. so political correctness is saying it's dangerous to combine a lack of substantive engagement across all kinds of social differences will a commitment to civility at the expense of
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talking seriously about the issues that concern us. the difference we have. so i think it's important to remember we need to find a way to talk about things that are uncomfortable to talk about. we shouldn't pretend we're always saying thing wes need just we're saying things we know, we imagine will offend negatively. i'm arguing that political correctness, if we're not careful, way to double down on repressing discussion about race. >> host: what's an example you use in "racial -- pair paranoia. >> one thing people talk about was the idea that there's something going on vis-a-vis americans casting votes about the person that could be the first black president, seemed
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almost antithetical to politicar business pacing. one of the moments that was so powerful during the election was the time when obama had to come houston and talk explicitly about race. >> host: in philadelphia. >> guest: right here in philadelphia. one of the ironies -- so many ironies but one of the powerful ones is the first black president actually is a person who can talk least about race. for him it's a third rail for everyone, it's the third, fourth, and philadelphia rail for him. there's something about race he knows he can't discuss, and part of what he tried to do in that moment was to say, let me say something i think is going to bring people together that is forward thinking and hopefully i'll never have to bring it up again. in some ways it's paranoia. the idea is americans for fatigued about race. so resistant to thinking about
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racial inclusion, that to even bring up the idea of race too often, folks are going to disqualify you from the highest office in the land and you're not going to be a president for all americans. the positive is there are ways to address all kinds of differences that don't invoke race but brings everyone in. that's a nice model. we don't have to produce race-specific programs to create racial equality in a way. we can do it in these other mechanisms that allow everyone a piece of the pie. the irony is -- some people are already so upset and disaffected, alienated from the discourse about racial inequality and discrimination. so i think has to negotiate this incredibly difficult scenario. he stands for the racial possibilities in america but lit'llly can't talk about race because that would define his
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disqualification from the office. we're all negotiating variation on that same paradox. >> host: professor jackson, are white americans particularly in your view, oversensitive or too careful about the so-called race card. >> guest: i think we're all sensitive. and for good reason. the difference is offer there are ways you can national white american can afford to say, let's get over race and move on. because to get over race and move on means we don't have to wallow in what we know was so complicated about america's history vis-a-vis the question of race. so it's easy to imagine a project if we stop talking about race, we'll end race simple -- race racism. and in that way, i understand some of what the tension is in
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these kind of interracial conflagrations because white americans for the most part want to imagine the key is moving forward and if you don't bring up race we'll get our first black president, doing other things to bring people into the field. why do you keep dragging us back to the 19th century, precivil right america? isn't mrs. different now? the question is, it is different but different in what ways and how can we continue to push ourselves to be as inclusive as we can be. the only way to do it, is a really find ways to talk about these complicated issues. it's about listening, not just talking. that's the other problem. we tend to imagine -- we wait our turn, let the other person finish and the idea is to live through the other person's shoes. think what it would feel like to be a white american in america today who knows whiteness doesn't carry the same cachet it
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did 50 years ago. you're losing a part of the pie. the browning of america has implications. that produced the first black president, the browning of the electorate, and there's something about listening to that fear, that anxiety, that is legitimate at a certain level, and those with power have to give it up and we all need to be conscious of that. we have to listen to the other side and figure out where the common ground and is try to push to a place we can all feel good about what is possible if we come together and think critically about our past that imagine our futures together as a collective. >> host: what kind of classes do you teach at the university of pennsylvania? >> guest: i do a lot of film. i'm a filmmaker as well as an anthropologist. so right now we're focusing on graduate courses that are getting the students to understand that film can be a medium for scholarship, not just for public intellectualism. often academics think we write these books and the only people who read them are the scholars,
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but if we make a film, everyone will see it. that's an incentive for going to the medium. but the other thing students are interested in is the idea that it might actually allow you, if you're thinking about the world in images and sound and using film to tell some kind of story based on your research question. it might allow you to say different things about the word. could be a good vehicle to actually produce these scholarships for your colleagues, not just for an outside audience. so trying to figure out, what does it mean to do visual dissertations or to think about producing knowledge in images and sound the way it counseled for scholarship like a book karl or journal article would count. so we do a lot of that work across the graduate curriculum. and setting up a new syllabus
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for a new course, how to do an the polling research in the moment where everything is on file. how do we recal -- recalibrate in these interest ways today. >> host: who is answer man? >> guest: this sort of superheroic aler to ego i created for myself when i was doing any dissertation. the thing is an throw pollingist make their living talking to people. you speak to folks and listen to them, and one of my problems as a fledgling anthropologist when i was in grad school, i was incredibly shy. it was difficult to do my research because it's hard to fine a way to describing up conversations with people i didn't know. and so anthroman was a character i could presented myself to be when i wanted to give myself the confidence to introduce myself to people and get my research.
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it was just kind of this fun thing to play with and eventually i didn't need him but what like about the idea of anthroman, there's something about being an anthropologist that makes you a superhero. you can say something about what defines human beings different from every other species on the planet. incredibly ambitious, almost hubris filled project, and anthromans my way of playfully marking that ambitiousness. it would be a great feat. >> host: what is yours background? >> guest: i'm a native new yorker, brooklyn, public schools, all from k through 12. went to high school at brooklyn technical high school, high school of almost 5,000 people. then went to d.c. as an undergraduate and studied film. i was going to be a filmmaker.
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and then i went into anthology because i could have my cake and eat it too. anthropology is an area where i could make films and could be part of my identity. if i was a sociologist or political scientist or literature professor, i could make film maybe as a hobby, but didn't have the long history of anthropologists using this equipment, using filmmaking as a part of doing research. so i thought i can still make movies and also do them in a context where i have license to go out and find out things about the world. the one thing howard wasn't able to teach me, using film -- now they're doing things digitally. it's film quotes. we're still using 16-millimeter film back then and changing film magazines in a black bag, and so i knew how to make a film but i
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felt like i was this kid from brooklyn that didn't know enough about the world, and i thought anthropology would allow me to learn more about the world. and that's how i ended up at anthronothing columbia. >> host: what did your parents do? >> guest: in mom and dad, both working class, in the medical profession, but they worked at bellevue hospital, doing a very particular kind of work. they're both dietary aides and my mom went back to school when i was still in high school to get her college degree and become a social worker, which is what she dead by -- she did by the time i got to howard, and they were continuing sort of struggle and trying to better themselves. they were learners until the day -- to this day, actually, still trying to better themselves, still trying to gain more knowledge from any crevice they could, so in some ways part
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of what i got from them was the idea that you never stop trying to learn more about the world and translate what you're learning into other things you can do to be productive to be a critical citizen of the world. so i think they're noth very different kind of ways model that but they model that as do it tier aides and then a social worker to build a life for my mom and her family. >> host: where did you get your ph.d? >> guest: from columbia in 2000 and then went on a post doc in cambridge, massachusetts, for a long time, where i could do film work and turn the dissertation into a book. >> host: this is your third book? what can we learn from dave chappell. >> guest: i think dave chappell is the intent essential example of shawn had had enough of race
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quiet talk. he was famous for pushing the envelope and would say michigans at the time how messy race can be that were funny and dave chappell decided he wouldn't do his show northern despite the $50 million they were trying to give him, because he imagined there was something about the way he was using race, being funny with race, that wasn't enlightening people and actually reinforcing some of america's worst racial distrust. like he couldn't find a way to distinguish between progressive comedy around race and stuff that was actually doing more harm than good. >> host: are we pair mid-about stereo types? >> guest: i think stereotypes are by definition a kind of institutionalize of paranoia. so i think we're both very sensitive to it. all of us. psychologists would tell us not only do we have to negotiate them but we're operating spaces
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and it impacts our performance. we actually perform differently when he think about the stereo type as a threat and we can either reintroduce -- reproduce. people when they see us they can have a short-handed version what we represent. sometimes we imagine good things but often we're trying to make sure what they see is not what they get. speciallies a americans, a less than flattering or embauered notion of what we represent to them, especially if we're different in some way. >> host: two other examples in your book i wanted to have you expand on and what you feel that we learned from them. cynthia mckinney, member of congress, trying to get into her place of employment, and henry louis gates, trying to get into his home. >> guest: those are both really important and nuanced examples
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of why people can become so frustrated about race. because in both of those instances, race is never the explicit issue. the issue is always -- i'm trying to go through a space where i belong, right? and someone is barring me from entry in some way. i think must be about something other than the fact that i don't have any i.d. or that i'm a little boisterous because i have had a long trip back from asia. and in both instances we see racial paranoia is not just about poor marginalized populations trying to find a way to be heard. it's about folks who have mad it, whoer very successful, who think even when we're at the top of the game, there are these moments, instances in a flash where folks seem to be -- again, we're not sure. part of what makes racial paranoia such an interesting concept, there's no open and shut case most of the time. we want the certainty of the black-hatted bad guy who can tell us, we don't want you in
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this town. and we're in a moment now when that's not it. a cop isn't saying racist things to henry louis gates and the security guard isn't saying you don't belong here because you're black. part of what they're imagining this is the politically correct way to do that work. disqualify my from full social belonging without ever invoking race at all, but clearly more slippery than the ways you might imagine police can bar people from certain social venues. >> host: in your view, professor jackson, are white people ever unfairly tarnished with the race card brush and do you include any examples in your book, racial paranoia? >> guest: the book -- one of the things i decided to focus on in the book is out african-americans understand race vis-a-vis the social paranoia. paranoia might be a logical way to responsible to contemporary moments. might make sense to be paranoid.
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i also think at the very same time it's unproductive to box ourselves into a corner that is about racial accusation and counteraccusation. so the idea isn't just to try to find a way to out people as racist. gotcha moment, i knew there was something -- that's not productive for anyone. the point of the book is to say, there's no island we can send the racists, no planet we can shift them to so we have to live with folks that sometimes believe that are incredibly frightening and even offensive but we don't have the luxury of disqualifying from our social community. how do we find a way to talk across and maybe get people to think differently about their understanding of the world? i think that is part of the point in the book. we have to start with building real relationships and being willing to say folks are going to get things wrong and not going to have a language or facility for making people feel
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included because the never had to cultivate that. and it's not simply enough to say i'm never going to talk to you. we'd never have a conversation. the key is to find a way to live with difference and to try to build the possible of having serious substantive dialogue across those ideological differences. >> host: three books. you have a fourth in the works? >> guest: should be done next month. it's an interesting project about a transnational spiritual community, a group of african-americans that left chicago in 1967, fled to liberia, and then eventually to southern israel, and by '69 they made it to southern israel and have been there ever since. very few people talk about this community. what was once 400 people who left are now 34 hundred, and it's a story about how the community in israel uses that as
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a base to connect with community members on five different continentses all over the world. there's a change of folks throughout the united states and i'm interested in how they use the media technology to build this transnational spiritual community, and it's a fascinating story that few people know about. so it would be fun to bring that to hopefully a wide audience. >> host: you're finishing it but self months before at it published. >> guest: not until the end of 2013. >> host: we have been talking with university of pennsylvania professor dr. john l. jackson, jr., here's the book. racial pair nowa, the unintended consequences of political correctness, this is book tv on c-span2. >> now from the university of pennsylvania. we discuss the new media regime
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replacing professional journalism. this interview is part of book tv's college series. >> book tv on c-span2 is on location at the university of pennsylvania in philadelphia. we are in the annenberg school of communication currently, and joining us is the dean of the an an annenberg school. what is the annenberg school of communication? >> guest: we're a free-standing school and we do research, both research for the public con expulsion for scholarly works and ph.d training and undergraduate training on the way in which mead ya and communication influence social practices, political practices, health practices and cultural practices. >> host: we're here specifically to talk to you about your most
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recent back, after broadcast news, media regimes, democracy and the new information environment. but it seems that for the last 20-30 years we half been debating the after broadcast news scenario. how do you assess it? >> guest: well, what we're trying to do in this book is put it into a little brit of historical context. so our basic argument is that over the last 20 years, there have been a number of changes, some slow, some more quick -- that are changing the way in which we think about where we get public affairs information from. and the three big changes we think are going on are the blurring of news and entertainment -- thank the daily show, although it's more than that. the blurring of producers and consumers, and the

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